More than Words

Movies Filmed in Zagreb

Throughout decades, a lot of movies have been filmed in Zagreb, some entirely, some only partially. Here are four best and most significant movies which were filmed in Zagreb and which gained a lot of critical recognition.

When you're one of the biggest cities in the region, known for its cultural influence, as in the case with Zagreb, it's perfectly understandable that you will become an intriguing destination for filmmakers. Like many other Central European cities, Zagreb used to be a popular destination for filmmakers, due to its charm and architectural beauty. That was especially evident when filmmakers started to put a lot of classical European novels on the big screen. Several hundreds of movies were filmed in Zagreb (Check out Zagreb - the film stage broschure for more on those movies) during the last couple of decades which is why I had to narrow the choice only to the best ones.  So this is my personal list of some of the best movies that were partially or entirely filmed in Zagreb. Each of these movies was a major success, and they are still very popular. You'll notice that almost all of the movies on this list were filmed in the 70s or 80s, which explains why this period is called the 'golden age' of Zagreb's cinematography. Zagreb's charming alleys and rooftops, facades and balconies, gardens and parks were a real magnet for many filmmakers who wanted to add that little extra kick of aesthetics to their movies.


The Trial (1962)

Let's start right off the bat with a movie adaption of my favorite novel. This ecranisation of Franz Kafka's existentialist masterpiece, filmed by Orson Welles is certainly the best movie adaption of the novel that is famous for its absurdist connotations and critique of bureaucracy. Some of the parts of the movie were filmed in Zagreb because, according to Welles, Zagreb had a lot of classic old streets which reminded him of Prague a lot. Also, Zagreb offered industrial fair where Welles could easily shoot a famous bureaucratic scene with 850 secretaries typing on 850 typewriters. Welles expressed how he was unable to find such a large space in Britain and France to meet the prerequisites of the scene in Britain and France. Two Welles's unfinished films, 'The Deep' and 'Don Quixote', were also filmed in Zagreb. This is, without a doubt, the best movie filmed in Zagreb, as it isn't just one of the best movies in that decade, but one of the best movies ever made. The extravagant office set that Welles created for the purpose of filming 'The Trial' was one of the best sets ever seen in a movie at that time.

Image credit:  The Trial (1962)


Fiddler on the Roof (1971)          

Only a few know that this legendary musical comedy-drama that was crowned with three Oscars was shot in Zagreb and surrounding areas. In order to film everything correctly, an entire village was built in Mala Gorica, near Zagreb. Most of the 'urban“ scenes in the movie were filmed in Zagreb's Upper Town. Some nifty tricks were used to make Zagreb appear like St. Petersburg, such as sprinkling the marble dust to mimic the looks and feeling of snow-covered St. Petersburg. This award-winning musical might not be the best movie filmed in Zagreb, but it is, without a doubt, the most successful one. To this day, it's still considered to be one of the best, if not the best, film adaptation of a Broadway musical. Since scenography is of great importance when it comes to musicals, charming scenes filmed on the streets of Zagreb had their share of success, as well.

 Image credit: Fiddler on the Roof (1971)


Tin Drum (1979)

'Tin Drum' is another Oscar-winning movie filmed in Zagreb. This famous adaptation of Günter Grass's novel is nothing short of a masterpiece. The movie follows Oskar - an extremely intelligent and gifted boy who refuses to grow up in order to rebel against the mentality of his family and neighborhood during the rise of Nazis in Germany. This satirical cult classic is one of the finest examples of European modern literature and filmmaking. As with other movies, the scenes of this German hit film were filmed in various locations across the Europe, with several generic street scenes and scene in Polish Post Office being shot in Zagreb. A historic army barracks, Rudolf barracks, today a protected monument, played an important role in the making of 'Tin Drum'. Although just a fragment of the movie was shot in Zagreb, this movie is a memorable experience, both literary and audiovisually.


 Image credit: Tin Drum (1979)


Sophie's Choice (1982)

Another Oscar-winning movie, 'Sophie's Choice' tells a love story of a Polish immigrant Sophie, who survived the incarceration in a Nazi concentration camp, and her Jewish lover. Just like Welles wanted to shoot 'The Trial' because it was easy for him to turn Zagreb into Prague, Alan J. Pakula decided to shoot 'Sophie's Choice' in Zagreb because it reminded him a lot of Polish cities. Some of the most memorable scenes shot in Zagreb were shot in Flower Square and Oktogon. The movie was a turning point for Branko Lustig, a legendary Croatian producer who, after producing Sophie's Choice, decided to go to Hollywood where he got two Oscars for his outstanding work on 'The Schindler's List' and 'The Gladiator'.

Image credit: Sophie's Choice (1982)


Header image credit: Zagreb Tourist Board, Marko Vrdoljak

Author: Marko Pačar